A quick thank you to the entire Bitcoin Cash BUIDL community for all the amazing (hard) work that everyone is doing. Read.cash in particular is a "technical" marvel (so impressed), it's also pretty easy on the eyes. Not sure how long this site has been alive, but it's inspired me to write/blog for the first time EVER.
I've been a professional developer for the last 24 years. Started a BBS in my parents basement, Midnight Run, that gave me my first glimpse into the world of tech (2 years before the Internet, Prodigy, Compuserve, etc). Being a SysOp was the best education a young developer could ever ask for.
I was graciously supported (with content and knowledge) by strangers who dialed into one of my 8x phone lines (started with 14.4k, to 28.8k and then oh boy did 56k make things fun).
Can't remember everything that I hosted (none of the "bad" illegal stuff), but there were plenty of warez to go around, as you might know, you gotta upload to download. I'll never-ever-ever forget the first time a saw (topless) Pamela Anderson appear pixel-by-pixel right before my eyes -- took about 25 minutes for that JPEG upload, but oh was it worth it -- good times.
shoutout to my boy Anthony, the #1 co-sysop ever!
My education during that time primarily focused on function though: learning about .zip compression, hex editors, Turbo Pascal, all the while leading into TCP/IP (you know, the Internet).
During that time, I was also the SysAdmin for both HS computer labs (not officially of course), which gave me unfettered access to the entire school network (with great power came great responsibility). However, I was not always responsible, which I routinely expressed with after school multi-player Doom tournaments over the Intranet (yeah! the Internet was still a ways off).
The cool thing was, you didn't even have to be in one of the labs, any classroom or library connected computer would do, so we had LARGE events.
University was pure awesome! I was able to finish my first semester of IT in about a week, so they made me a TA, and once again, I had POWER! Got a part-time job (working about 12 hours on Fridays-only), so I had MONEY! A freshman with money AND power, what would you expect to happen next?
I took a 2nd gig freelancing on my spare time for a Wall Street day-trader, who tasked me with the responsibility of alerting his clients every time he had a "trade idea" (this was back when they still used beepers). I quickly realized that this guy was good, REALLY GOOD, and started trading myself.
TL;DR—bought my first car all cash and moved off-campus into a gated community. and this was only the beginning...
Considering that my guidance counselors (I had two) had me in the top decile (approx. $65k/yr) of potential earners upon graduation (2 1/2 years away) and I had already received multiple 6-figure offers, I did the only thing one can do .. I took the fuckin' money.
TL;DR—although I started as a Junior Developer for $75k (less than expected, but I decided NOT to work in the city -- you know quality of life and all), I was extremely fortunate and doubled my salary that first year.
Okay, so I would definitely call this my peak. Life was good. My proudest moment came when I installed a Clarion AutoPC in my car. It would talk to me and I could talk to it. So basically I had Kitt, from Knight Rider.
Entrepreneurship is a dominant gene in my family (both core and extended), so it was only natural to branch out on my own.
I started a real estate consulting business on the side, basically doing online marketing for Realtors. It was mostly automated ads to Craigslist. The work was rewarding and the money was steady and growing. It was the first time I could make money in my sleep.
Okay, so you've basically just been listening to me gloat about how fabulous my life has been. Well.. that's about to change. As much as I love reminiscing (especially with an 80-proof-bev-in-hand), that's NOT the point. YOU NEED CONTEXT. That's the only way you'll understand how I arrived to where I am today.
One ordinary day on my way home from work, I was t-boned by a reckless teenage driver. Fortunately, he hit me on the passenger side (which became no more) and sparred my life. But I still had 6-months of recover, therapy, etc, etc.
TL;DR—I eventually decided to give up my nice "cushy" executive position as a team leader and decided to go FULL entrepreneur.
Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ughhhhhhh...
Life. Became. Difficult. (read fuckin' miserable)
Within a few years (honestly like 2), I was POOR. HOMELESS. and IN DEBT.
So here's the thing though. Being poor did have its benefits. I HAD NO MONEY, AND COULDN'T DO SHIT! So the only option really was to work, and work I did. Decided to forgo food and alcohol in favor of a shiny new ISDN line (in my shared apt -- where I worked and slept on the couch).
I happened to be in China when the first dev phone released. My buddy (the aforementioned Anthony) bought it and sent it over. It took 6 weeks to clear customs (along with the rest of my tech gear), but it started one of the MOST rewarding times of my life.
TL;DR—There is an immense joy that comes from writing software for YOURSELF. At this time, I was on a one-year sabbatical, so I was selfish and just wrote apps for myself. And I loved every minute of it.
As there was very little competition in the app store at the time, I had great success with 3 of the 20 apps that I published. One in particular got picked up by a major telco that licensed its use and pre-installed it onto their mobile devices.
My Android apps (20 in total) were spread over 3 companies that I had at the time (real estate, IT and entertainment) as well as my own personal account.
One Thanksgiving, I believe in 2011, I published a NSFW app on my own website. I created a "Lite" version that was SFW and published it in the App Store, which was very common at the time. I also ran my billing through Google Wallet (is that what they called it back then), which was probably NOT the best idea.
Within about 90 days, my revenue had reached about $9k/mo, but all good things came to and end, when the folks over in Mountain View decided not only to close my "personal" account (which published the NSF version), but also the 3 corporate accounts that I had linked to my name. With it I lost my 20 published apps, all revenue, with NO means of recovery.
Yeah, so I could still publish all of my apps on my OWN respective websites, but srsly Google, WTF?!? These were C class corporations, which as I understood were their OWN entities. I don't even understand how they could legally do that, but who could afford a lawyer to fight Google???
All the apps were still installed on user's devices, but now I had ZERO revenue. I thought about switching to PayPal for billing (which I kinda did for a lil' bit), but I realized this would probably be short-lived as well. Besides the fact is I had 4 PayPal accounts and couldn't risk a Google-esque closure of ALL my accounts, AGAIN!
In the fall of 2012, after exhausting all options with Google (those bitches wouldn't even tell me WHY), I decided I needed to find a better way to handle online commerce moving forward. There were the "hi-risk" merchant services, but their UXs was so damn terrible on mobile, so they were a non-starter.
The first Bitcoin halving occurred on the 28th of November 2012. I believe I had "heard" of Bitcoin before that, but THAT was the day I decided, "whatever, what the fuck? what the hell do I have to lose".
The next day, I went to MoneyGram and sent US$1,000 to Mt. Gox. Each bitcoin was about US$12 back then, so I had about 80 BTC to start experimenting, and experiment I did.
Not quite 50BTC for pizza, but at one point, I remember paying 10BTC for a graphic design. I can't find it now, but it's somewhere on BitcoinTalk.
(btw, I am even allowed to use that site anymore? -- or don't hate the haters)
As I often did and still do, I was determined to become an expert before I committed anything to this new opportunity. So I spent the next 8-9 months studying cryptography (thanks Udemy) and reading any and all source code I could find. Since I'm NOT proficient in C/C++, the majority of my blockchain education really came from BitcoinJS (thanks to Stefan Thomas @justmoon for that).
So I was approached in 2014 to redesign the Project Skyhook for commercial use in NYC's nascent Bitcoin market. It quickly became apparent that there were "critical" flaws with the machine's setup (notably, its bill acceptor would accept fakes), so I had the "brilliant" idea of creating a "better" skyhook (still very affordably priced at under US$1,000).
The Lil' Bodega was born (check out the Indiegogo campaign).
I launched the first model (which was actually its 2nd generation) in Brooklyn just before BitLicense was announced.
Oh-My-God! WTF?!? Word of mouth is a hell-of-a-thing.
First day, we did $12k, and we hadn't announced it to ANYONE (the machine wasn't even properly installed yet).
But who wants to deal with regulators, so we quickly setup shop across the river in NJ. It was actually the first Bitcoin ATM for the state.
This is the part of the story where I start to breakdown and get a little emotional. And I know I'll soon be left with an empty bottle (bourbon really is the best medicine), so please bear with me.
Technical problems with the hardware just never went away. Inserted bills not being counted, Internet connectivity issues, camera/qrcode issues, touchscreen issues, battery/backup issues, it went on and on...
Throughout it all, I had a lot of help from the resources provided by ATDC, Georgia Tech's technology accelerator, as well as my amazing mentor Michelangelo Ho. They were amazing and provided me with the best resources available in the region.
My struggles continued.. but it was slowly moving in the right direction.
At the time, I thought it was just annoying to have to wait so long on days when the volume was high and the mempool was full. However, those days became more and more frequent. I didn't know it at the time, but the core developers had ulterior motives (to the tune of $30MM) for keeping the blocks exactly the way they were.
Perhaps, I should have pivoted sooner, but I guess I was too hopeful that this "problem" would get solved soon enough. Umm, it didn't.. My days became filled with watching for block confirmations. And that was it! My job became moving bitcoins into a Goddam hot wallet all-day-long (well at least during ATM operating hours).
So a few of my operators had the good fortune of securing 24hr locations. Sounded great! Except, I still needed to keep up liquidity and now there was ZERO downtime.
It was simply unsustainable, which is when I was forced to redesign the system to support non-instant transactions. Basically, the customers would receive an IOU upon transacting with a web-based, status monitor as to where and when their coins would be delivered.
This actually started working amazingly well. No one complained about the delays, I guess cause they were already used to waiting at least 10 minutes anyway. I also included a live chat with the status page, so if they had questions, they could get instant answers. Sweet!
At some point, probably due to the ridiculous confirmation times, I ended up with just a single exchange that held all the deposited "operator" funds. Unfortunately, that exchange (the largest at the time) was the ill-fated Bitfinex.
They got "hacked!" for 119,756 BTC (US$72MM at the time). I kept ZERO funds in BTC, as I was obviously there just to hedge against the price volatility. But they decided that they would just take from everyone's funds, since that was "fair".
About half of my operators demanded a full withdrawal (read bank run), while the others (who didn't wish to kill their golden goose) were willing to cover the loss, with the condition that I segregated ALL wallets, so they could monitor on-chain.
Oh cool! Not a problem at all. Just give me ~3 months to whip that right up.
I waited weeks for a Bitfinex resolution, but in the end, I had lost all confidence for the BATM business. I realized how dependent we were on the exchanges to hedge against the volatility. But the exchanges had ZERO accountability for their actions. ZERO! This was NOT a business. This had become gambling. I hate gambling! (though I do enjoy watching others)
So I went back to doing what I do best. Offering technology solutions. Always on-site (I'd just sleep on the couch or wherever) for fairly short terms (average was 3 months). I've never really had a problem making $$$, so this time was basically me just treading water, while I figured what the fuck to do with my life.
I was in Crypto Depression.
I also kept a close eye on Ethereum (having participated in their ICO). Tokenization was what I desperately wanted back in my Bitcoin days, which I thought was possible through the use of colored-coins.
In 2018, I nearly pulled the trigger on an ICO with a team of influencers that I had previously worked with (so glad I didn't do that -- I see you SEC -- I don't want no trouble).
I honestly never paid BCH any mind before BitPay started accepting it for their wallet and debit card. The fees were ZERO? How? Must be a total scam. But I knew the BitPay team. My office was literally right next door to theirs (Atlanta Tech Village), and we often spoke of collaborating.
So I just accepted BCH as a gift that would quickly fade away, just as Bitcoin had done. But the really weird thing about BCH is that it worked! Perfectly! Doing exactly what I had thought Bitcoin was supposed to do.
So what the FUCK was all that 1MB bullshit about?!? Oh yeah, that's right, core devs sold out an entire ecosystem for US$30MM (and probably a happy ending or two).
2020 has brought with it a new life for me. It's time to move on...
Towards the end of 2019, I was approached by one of my former operators who desperately wanted to solve the exchange HODL problem. I spent about 4 months developing a solution for his team. I repurposed the "usable" assets from my past. In the end I built a solution that would utilize stablecoins (USDC, USDT and Dai) to allow operators to HODL They Own Coins, while still hedging against volatility.
The team eventually abandoned the project (don't know why exactly), but I had already decided this was the new way forward for me.
Sooooo, I'm back!!!
First off, thank you ever so much for letting me share my story. It's been very therapeutic and releasing of (tension, stress, anxiety, all of it), and that's what I need as I transition to this new phase of my life.
And I do hope that others can find similar relief by sharing their own "Dev Tales" (yes, that's the name of this new community).
Life is but a journey. There are highs and lows. Who's ready to get high with me??
I have a 2 projects that I want to focus on in 2020 (maybe a 3rd, we'll see what happens after the May halvening).
Telr.io—is everything that I've managed to salvage from the platform meltdown I suffered back in 2016.
I've plucked all the goodness and left behind the drudge.
If you're a BATM operator who'd prefer to HODL Your Own Coins and improve your customer's experience, please visit https://telr.io for more info.
Check out this link for a preview of Telr's customer perspective:
(or you can scan the QR Code for the optimal mobile experience).
Nito.cash—this is a 100% passion project. I see no better way to show my ❤️ and appreciation to the BCH community than to build an ephemeral "web" wallet that's privacy focused (CashFusion maybe?) and fine-tuned for on-boarding the uninitiated.
It's already built (the code that is), but it needs to be properly packaged. I've initially laid a foundation using the IOTA Spark wallet (https://spark.iota.org/) for its amazing UI/UX. It's quite unfinished, but I'm on this full-time, so I'll get an alpha/beta online pretty quickly (early Feb?).
In the meantime, you can visit the sub (https://www.reddit.com/r/NitoCash/) for more info and to comment/critique.
Sooo.. I'm really not looking for tips, but they are very much appreciated. A bit of validation that others care about this sort of stuff would definitely encourage me to write more (I literally skipped talking about an entire decade -- of straight debauchery).
Also, I have no intention of withdrawing any tips received, I'll just pay them all forward (this community is super easy to support).
I WOULD greatly appreciate any and all "constructive" criticism/feedback on either or both of my upcoming projects though.
Cheers and Happy Coding Devs!
Photos by Unsplash